Former city employee sentenced for fuel card fraud
A former City of Hattiesburg Water Department employee recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy and two counts of credit card fraud.
Dennis Dejon Martin, 27, of Brusly, Louisiana, was sentenced Feb. 16 to two years for conspiracy, and three years each for credit card fraud, with three suspended for the first fraud count and two years suspended for the second. The suspended sentences will be conducted under post-release supervision. Martin also was fined $1,000 and must pay other fees and court costs.
“My biggest concern is if the city is made whole,” said Ward 1 Councilman Kim Bradley. “He needs to make restitution. He stole from the taxpayers.”
Martin was arrested in January 2014 and initially charged with embezzlement in connection to fraudulent purchases made on two city-issued gas cards made in 2013, while Martin was employed there.
The City of Hattiesburg had to pay Pine Belt Oil about $14,400 because of the fraudulent purchases.
Bradley said Martin should pay back all of the money he embezzled, even if it’s done a little at a time over many years.
“That was money that belongs to the citizens,” Bradley said. “He should have to pay something.”
The incident led to a revamping of the city’s check-and-balance system on fuel procurement for city vehicles.
The issue over the purchasing first arose publicly at the end of a City Council work session on Dec. 16, 2013, when Ward 3 Councilman Carter Carroll asked about November 2013 charges of more than $10,000 from the two cards that were included on the claims docket for payment to Pine Belt Oil.
The following day, Mayor Johnny DuPree told the council that the administration had been aware of potential fraudulent use of those gas cards dating back six months and that the Hattiesburg Police Department had been investigating.
“The administration knew about it and didn’t tell the council,” Bradley said. “We had to find out about it on our own.”
Attempts to reach DuPree were unsuccessful.
Contrelle Hagans, 28, of Hattiesburg faces the same charges in the incident, but was not a city employee. His trial date is set for May 9.
“I’m glad they caught the guys responsible,” Bradley said. “The whole thing is very unfortunate.”